Geza Vermes, who did more to revise our appreciation of the historical Jesus than any modern scholar, died yesterday of cancer, aged 88.
Born Jewish in Budapest, he was converted to Roman Catholicism by his parents in 1931. Both parents were murdered in the Holocaust. After the War, Geza became a priest, obtaining his doctorate with a dissertation on the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which he held unrivalled lifetime authority. He left the Church in 1957, moved to England and reasserted his Jewish identity. Up to his death he was Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.
Geza established the idea that Jesus was a first-century Jewish rabbi, who sought to redeem his own people and was little concerned with other nations. His groundbreaking work, published in 1973 was titled simply, Jesus the Jew.
A lucid, persuasive speaker, I last heard him discourse with dazzling fluidity just a few months ago. He was a regular contributor to Standpoint, whose editor, Daniel Johnson, contributes a beautiful appreciation here. I have seldom encountered so rich a mind.